Barry Harris in memoriam memorising

Conrad Cork RIP

EDIT: Conrad’s partner, Ali Cork, has made a Eulogy site where memorial contributions can be submitted.

I was saddened to learn that Conrad Cork died on Sunday 25 April 2021. Amongst other things he was a UK-based jazz musician, educator and author of Harmony with LEGO Bricks.

Though I worked closely with Conrad and helped him produce the 2008 final edition of his book, we never met. I wrote summaries of all the chapters as well as suggesting changes as I read through the whole book. I used Sibelius to produce engravings to replace all the music staff examples from the previous edition. All contact was by email; there was not a single phone call. But Conrad was always very supportive.

Some of my suggested changes were too much for the stage that Conrad had got to with his book (which had evolved through various editions since first published in 1985) and his plans for retirement. But he encouraged me to take them forward myself with his blessing.

In the following year I collected the ideas that had formed from working with and on Conrad’s book and wrote my own book, Insights in Jazz, which was published in November 2009. I made a series of podcasts to support my book and generally tried to update to approach where I felt I could. I was asked to take over running the discussion group about the LEGO bricks method. Conrad volunteered to write a review.

Money was never the motivation for Conrad. He was a true educator and keen to help as many people as possible learn about jazz music. Shortly after publication of the final edition of his book he sold the rights to Charles Alexander for £1 and did not ask for any royalties on subsequent sales of his book.

In further posts to the discussion group in 2016, he made it clear that if ever his book became unavailable for sale, he would wish it to become free to all:

What I would really like is for the whole thing to be public domain, with people free to help themselves to as much or as little as they want.

Conrad occasionally contributed to our discussion group. An example of his passion for the LEGO bricks method:

Blue Bossa us an ideal tune to let the LEGO Bricks penny drop.

The second halves of each line are exactly the same as each other in terms of chords. So you could play them as just that.

But you would lose the sense of the song’s ‘journey’. Each time you arrive at that last cadence it is from a different place (and the second time is from a major, when the song is predominantly minor, which is a whole change of atmosphere).

By using the LEGO terms , sad backslider to get into it first time and sad downwinder to get into it the second time, you will feel different and so play differently.

I may say I got a big ‘Yes!’ from Barry Harris when I showed him why the tune was in my book.

In Nov 2020 I told Conrad that after almost 30 years working in IT consultancy, at the age of 55 I was planning on stopping to find another focus, but felt too young to retire. With characteristic insight he replied:

Don’t think of it as retiring. Think of it as entering a new period of self-fulfilment on your own terms. Jung knew about it, as did the Zen masters. You still have the health and energy to do it properly. If you give your subconscious the space, it will tell you what to do.

Impressive blog btw.

So, I took Conrad’s advice, resigned from my job and focussed on my musical activities full time: playing, teaching and writing.

In 2017 he wrote in an email to me: “Perhaps one day we will meet? If you can put up with an agoraphobic recluse. :-)”. I’m sad to say, we never did.

I’ll leave the last words to Conrad from an email to the discussion group: “Thanks guys. It has been a privilege to get to know the people here. Means more than I can say.”

EDIT: Conrad’s partner, Ali Cork, has made a Eulogy site where memorial contributions can be submitted.

By jaelliott24

Jazz musician, author and teacher.

7 replies on “Conrad Cork RIP”

Hello John, I’m just dropping in to say this is a lovely tribute which captures that Conrad was someone special and that the discussion group was something he really valued. He deeply appreciated how you have developed his ideas and helped give them a life of their own through running the group. Collectively he described users of his approach as LEGO ‘brick-layers.’ Yes, Conrad did want the book to be accessible to all, and it’s on my ‘to do’ list to work with you, John, to make that happen. Meanwhile I’m refreshing my WordPress skills (which are very rusty) and aim to get my blog posted as soon as I can. best wishes to all. Alison Cork

Alison — sending deep condolences. I was introduced to LEGO Bricks almost 20 years ago and immediately recognized the genius behind this work. Conrad has left the music world with a monumental achievement for both professionals and amateurs (like myself). I cherish my copy of his work.

A fascinating insight into an obviously rare and selfless talent. Many thanks for such an eloquent introduction to Conrad and the ethos of his work..and what a privilege it must have been to have contributed, so closely (& yet so far) towards the vital work of this quiet giant of a man.

[…] It’s no exageration to say that Conrad changed my life. Albeit through his book and subsequent email exchanges. He was very generous with his wisdom and his passion for learning and helping others learn shone out. I hope to keep his jazz education legacy alive through my book and teaching. last year when I was considering retiring from my career in IT, he knew exactly what to say. […]

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